ROCHESTER — Desks, windowsills, shelves and cabinets. Nearly every elevated surface within Victims Inc.’s East Rochester office is covered by homey decor and piles of dense folders.

“I was going to clean up before we did this,” Pat Rainboth, Victims Inc.’s longtime executive director, said in a partially joking way. Her work and active case files are spread across three desks.

While the ubiquitous paperwork and decor indicate the advocacy group’s work is both diligent and well received (many of the decorations are gifts), they aren’t the first things that grab your eye.

It’s the large quilts hanging on the walls. More specifically, the faces and personal details stitched onto every square.

For decades, the nonprofit has provided immediate on-scene and continuing support to victims of fires, fatal crashes, suicides, drownings, crimes, sudden child deaths and other serious incidents in Strafford and Rockingham counties.

Their trained trauma intervention volunteers and grief volunteers help victims and family members communicate with first responders, investigators, medical professionals and aftercare providers. Rainboth also advocates on their behalf during court and legislative proceedings throughout the state.

The organization has 20 large quilts, some of which are nearly 6 feet tall. Each personalized square represents one of Victims Inc.’s cases, and the squares are made by family members to honor their deceased love ones.

For some people, being surrounded daily by the faces, words and artwork could be a haunting reminder of tragic events. But for Rainboth, they bring comfort, as well as physically represent one of the many ways Victims Inc. empowers the people they serve.

“Each of them have such a story,” she said in a warm, softspoken tone before calling attention to certain squares and reflecting upon the victims in great detail. “Those are the kinds of things I get a chill about all these years later… It’s a real imprint, a real intimate work.”

Victims Inc. is currently experiencing a shortage. It needs more trauma intervention and grief volunteers to better serve the Seacoast and surrounding area, particularly as the number of drug and suicide cases continue to represent all-time highs.

Whether it’s being a kind companion at a hospital, responding to the scene of an emotionally challenging incident, or communicating with a funeral home, Rainboth said she needs people to be on call a couple of times a month to ensure families aren’t alone while they wait for their personal support systems to be in place.

The main criteria is compassion, said Rainboth. That, and completing one of the organization’s two annual, 60-hour training sessions, which are spaced out over eight Saturdays. The next training begins February.

First responders, investigators and attorneys who have experienced firsthand the impact of Victims Inc. don’t like to think about what victims of crime would experience if the organization wasn’t around.

Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi recalled a fatal motor vehicle accident from 15 or so years ago. He was the on-call attorney and waited alone with family members in the Frisbie Memorial Hospital waiting room to hear whether the victim had passed away.

“I felt incredibly uncomfortable and that there would be this huge void for this family,” Velardi said. “Until Victims Inc. walked in. When they walked in, they changed the entire atmosphere of the room.”

Velardi was one of many who said Victims Inc. is greatly trusted and respected by people on all sides of their cases.

“That support for the family members of those people is paramount to their long-term wellness because they’re experiencing the same kind of distress that creates long-term post traumatic stress disorder in folks,” said Rochester Police Sgt. Mike Miehle. Prior to becoming a police officer, Miehle became a Victims Inc. trauma volunteer while he worked as a first responder in the U.S. Coast Guard. “They’re doing something critically important to the long-term health for families after a traumatic event. It’s something I think is very critical and very important to a community’s response on the whole.”

Rainboth celebrated her 80th birthday over the summer, and she has no plans of stopping her work anytime soon. After she temporarily died in surgery in 1967, Rainboth, then a mother with four young children, said she knew she was supposed to do something important with her life.

She played a key role in a variety of positive developments while working in the Rochester school district, but it wasn’t until Feb. 3, 1986, that she knew exactly what that purpose was.

Rainboth was on her way home from work and came upon a serious crash. It was there she met 15-year-old Connie Lynn Meredith. Connie was lying in a snowbank, dying from injuries she suffered when she was struck by a vehicle.

For the next 25 minutes, Rainboth held Connie’s hand, providing every ounce of comfort she could until Connie passed.

“It changed my life,” she said. “She absolutely haunted me. Days afterward, I could still feel her hand in mine. Not like I could remember it, but like it was still there. I was like, ‘You have to do something about this.’”

Rainboth’s journey with Victims Inc. started after that, and to this day Connie’s portrait and name hang in frames near her desk.

Connie is also the reason Rainboth works tirelessly at the state level to effect change for victims. The driver was drinking behind the wheel and blew a .04 blood-alcohol level, but due to New Hampshire’s laws at the time, he wasn’t guilty of a crime and wasn’t charged in connection with Connie’s death.

Other Victims Inc. staff and volunteers have found their way to the organization through their own personal losses. They, too, say highly emotional calls stay with them, and some have asked if it’s OK to cry at the scene.

Rainboth wants volunteers to feel those emotions, but believes a line must be drawn. Victims shouldn’t feel like they have to comfort the volunteer.

“It’s intense, but very rewarding and needed,” said Candy Bailey of Rochester. Bailey started as a Victims Inc. grief volunteer in the early 1990s, soon after her 19-year-old son Jonathan died in an industrial accident. “I saw there was this opportunity to volunteer… I thought it was a good fit because I realized how it may have benefited us at the time if we had that support.”

Paula Carr, a Strafford resident, started as a trauma intervention volunteer in 2014. As the sister of a state trooper and a member of Rainboth’s church, she’d heard about emotionally challenging calls for years.

While some of her calls have been difficult, particularly the suicide calls, Carr said it’s fulfilling to do what she can to make things “bearable” for families.

“In the moment, they don’t know what to do next,” she said. “When you’re a part of it, you’re really a part of it. It’s just a wonderful feeling to know you’re helping someone.”

More information about Victims Inc., the duties of its volunteers and how to apply for the upcoming February training can be found online at The date of the first February class hasn’t yet been finalized.